“His conscience was the strongest element of his nature. His affections were tender and warm. His whole nature was simple and sincere – he was pure, and then was himself.”
“Such a nature was admirably constituted to direct an heroic struggle on the part of a people proud enough to prefer a guide to a leader, a man commissioned to execute the popular will but, as in his case, strong enough to enforce his own.”
If you haven’t guessed yet, these good attributes were written about the character of the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.
President Lincoln was a role model for integrity and honesty.
He offers us so many examples of good character traits.
These good qualities stayed with him throughout the trials and tribulations of leading a country during one of the worst periods of its history.
Of course, Lincoln was president during the 19th century when the character of a person was a highly-regarded quality.
- What is good character?
- Why is good character important?
- Let’s look at 25 good character traits that impact your happiness.
- 1. Integrity
- 2. Honesty
- 3. Loyalty
- 4. Respectfulness
- 5. Responsibility
- 6. Humility
- 7. Compassion
- 8. Fairness
- 9. Forgiveness
- 10. Authenticity
- 11. Courageousness
- 12. Generosity
- 13. Perseverance
- 14. Politeness
- 15. Kindness
- 16. Lovingness
- 17. Optimism
- 18. Reliability
- 19. Conscientiousness
- 20. Self-disciplined
- 21. Ambitiousness
- 22. Encouraging
- 23. Forgiving
- 24. Considerate
- 25. Thoroughness
- Character Traits for Kids
- How to Build Good Character
What is good character?
Good character includes traits like loyalty, honesty, courage, integrity, fortitude, and other important virtues that promote good behavior.
A person with good character chooses to do the right thing because he or she believes it is the morally right to do so.
Other positive character traits have less to do with morals but still define a person’s character.
For example, being tenacious or creative can be excellent attributes but are not moral imperatives.
When a person possesses good character, it is exhibited through his or her words and actions.
It’s not limited to a single value, but the traits are demonstrated in the “good” choices they make and the “bad” choices they avoid.
Why is good character important?
According to historian Warren Susman in his book Culture as History, the use of the phrase “good character” peaked in the 19th century.
“Character was a keyword in the vocabulary of Englishmen and Americans,” says Susman, and so important to society that it was promoted as an essential component of one’s identity.
Things began to change in the 20th century, as we transitioned from a producing to a consuming society. Emphasis shifted from a focus on virtue and goodness to a focus on self and material possessions.
Says Susman, “The vision of self-sacrifice began to yield to that of self-realization.”
It became more important to cultivate personality traits, influence, and outer perceptions than to develop nobility of heart, mind, and deed.
In fact, Abraham Lincoln likely would never be elected president today.
In this age of cyber-bullying and political discord, it seems that good character traits are losing their relevance.
Is developing personal traits of goodness and virtue an outdated, useless pursuit that has little value in modern society?
It doesn’t take much life experience to discover how essential attributes of integrity are when it comes to one’s self-esteem, relationships, and life satisfaction.
Good character traits . . .
- Help build respect and trust from others.
- Motivate and inspire better character from others.
- Build self-respect and confidence.
- Provide a framework for making important decisions and choices.
- Reflect leadership qualities in personal and professional endeavors.
In addition, individual virtue is the linchpin for a healthy, functioning society.
Although it may not be a popular pursuit, developing these important character traits is one of the most satisfying, emotionally intelligent endeavors you’ll ever undertake.
Good character consists of defining your values and integrity based on time-tested principles and self-reflection and having the courage to live your life accordingly.
So how do you begin to improve your character?
Let’s look at 25 good character traits that impact your happiness.
I invite you to look over this character traits list and pick at least one of these good qualities to begin working on:
Integrity is a personal trait that has strong moral principles and core values and then conducting your life with those as your guide.
When you have integrity, you main your adherence to it whether or not other people are watching.
Honesty is a good trait that is more than telling the truth. It’s living the truth.
It is being straightforward and trustworthy in all of your interactions, relationships, and thoughts. Being honest requires self-honesty and authenticity.
Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny. ~ Lao Tzu
Loyalty is an ethical trait of faithfulness and devotion to your loved ones, your friends, and anyone with whom you have a trusted relationship.
Loyalty is a good quality that can also extend to your employer, the organizations you belong to, your community, and your country.
With this character attribute you treat yourself and others with courtesy, kindness, deference, dignity, and civility.
You offer basic respect as a sign of your value for the worth of all people and your ability to accept the inherent flaws we all possess.
This exceptional quality accepts personal, relational, career, community, and societal obligations even when they are difficult or uncomfortable.
This personal trait follows through on commitments and proactively create or accept accountability for your behavior and choices.
You have a confident yet modest opinion of your own self-importance.
You don’t see yourself as “too good” for other people or situations.
With this honorable trait you have a learning and growth mindset and the desire to express and experience gratitude for what you have, rather than expecting you deserve more.
This character traits example feels deep sympathy and pity for the suffering and misfortune of others, and you have a desire to do something to alleviate their suffering.
Using discernment, compassion, and integrity, this a character trait strives to make decisions and take actions based on what you consider the ultimate best course or outcome for all involved.
You make conscious, intentional decisions to let go of resentment and anger toward someone for an offense — whether or not forgiveness is sought by the offender.
Forgiveness may or may not include pardoning, restoration, or reconciliation. It extends both to others and to one’s self.
With this virtuous attribute you are able to be your real and true self, without pretension, posturing, or insincerity.
You are capable of showing appropriate vulnerability and self-awareness.
In spite of fear of danger, discomfort, or pain, this good human quality requires the mental fortitude to carry on with a commitment, plan, or decision, knowing it is the right or best course of action.
This good quality is willing to offer time, energy, efforts, emotions, words, or assets without the expectation of something in return.
This character trait offers these freely and often joyously.
Perseverance is a character trait steadfast persistence and determination to continue on with a course of action, belief, or purpose, even if it’s difficult or uncomfortable in order to reach a higher goal or outcome.
This character trait is knowledgeable of basic good manners, common courtesies, and etiquette, and are willing to apply those to all people you encounter.
You desire to learn the personal skills of politeness in order to enhance your relationships and self-esteem.
Kindness is a positive attribute of being considerate, helpful, and benevolent to others.
This virtuous trait is motivated by a positive disposition and the desire for warm and pleasant interactions.
This character trait has the ability to be loving toward those you love means showing them through your words, actions, and expressions how deeply you care about them.
It includes the willingness to be open and vulnerable.
Optimism is a virtuous example of having a sense of hopefulness and confidence about the future.
It involves a positive mental attitude in which you interpret life events, people, and situations in a promising light.
This character quality can be consistently depended upon to follow through on your commitments, actions, and decisions. You do what you say you will do.
This character attribute has the desire to do things well or to the best of your ability.
You are thorough, careful, efficient, organized, and vigilant in your efforts, based on your own principles or sense of what is right.
With this good character trait, you are able, through good habits or willpower, to overcome your desires or feelings in order to follow the best course of action or to rise to your commitments or principles.
You have a strong sense of self-control in order to reach a desired goal.
Developing these traits of good character can be difficult to foster and maintain, but they afford so many positive benefits to improve the quality of your life.
When you have ambitiousness, you possess the keen desire to achieve your goals.
Whether you are seeking to make more money, build a business, excel in your career, or find the love of your life, your ambition gives you the motivation to make it happen.
This character trait is positive as long as your ambition doesn’t overshadow your values or force you to compromise other positive character traits.
When you are encouraging, you offer hope, strength, and positive reinforcement to others. You go out of your way to give someone support and confidence.
This is an excellent trait as it reveals your ability to understand and care for others in an emotionally intelligent way. Because of your encouraging nature, others are naturally attracted to you.
The ability to forgive yourself and others reveals that you have a balanced perspective of human nature and the flaws inherent in all of us.
You are able to let go of grudges and resentment which in turn frees you and anyone who might have offended you.
It is an advanced trait that is an act of courage and commitment.
When you possess the trait of being considerate, you show an ability to think of other people as well as yourself.
You show care to others and seek to understand how they might feel in certain situations and adjust your behavior accordingly.
To be considerate also means being polite and respectful — even of those at a different station in life from you.
When you are thorough, you’re willing to put in the extra effort to ensure things are done completely and correctly.
Others can count on you to fulfill your commitments with great care and attention to detail.
Your ability to be thorough and consistent in your efforts mean you can expect more success and respect in your personal and professional life.
Character Traits for Kids
Good character isn’t something you are born with. Developing good character begins when you are a child, and it’s essential that parents and teachers prioritize teaching positive character qualities.
Through activities, games, lessons, and real-world experiences, children can grow in character and understand how these important traits make them happier, more successful, and more resilient.
Teaching traits like kindness, respect, and responsibility also help children develop self-esteem, as well as moral and ethical values.
When teaching these traits to children, adult role models should consider the following:
- Focus more on reinforcing good traits rather than pointing out bad ones.
- Offer children more positive ways of behaving and reacting when they exhibit bad character traits.
- Discuss with children how these good traits will positively impact their lives and make them more successful.
- Set high (but age appropriate) standards for children and make those standards clear and actionable.
- Use books and other literature with stories that reinforce positive character.
- Set a good example yourself for children to emulate and aspire to.
Setting this good example means that adults must look at themselves to assess their own skills and work to improve any areas where their traits might be weak.
Let’s take a look at how you can become a role model to others by improving your character.
How to Build Good Character
If you believe developing these positive characteristics, here are some action steps to show you how.
Step 1: Define your core values.
Know what is most important to you by determining your values for your professional and personal life.
These are the principles that are the foundation for your priorities, choices, actions, and behaviors.
You can start by looking at this list of values.
Step 2: Practice the habits.
Pick one or two from this list of positive character traits above to practice for several weeks.
Write down the actions you want to take or the behaviors you define that reflect this trait, and implement them in your daily life and interactions.
Wear a rubber band on your wrist or create other reminders to help you practice these good qualities.
Step 3: Find people with good character.
Surround yourself with people who reflect the character traits you want to embrace.
They will inspire and motivate you to build these traits in yourself.
Try to avoid people who have a weak character and make bad decisions.
Step 5: Take some risks.
Start taking small actions toward a goal or value that involves some level of risk.
When you face the possibility of failure and challenge yourself toward success, you become mentally and emotionally stronger and more committed to your principles.
Step 6: Stretch yourself.
Create high standards and big goals for yourself.
Expect the best of yourself and constantly work toward that, even though you will have setbacks and occasional failures.
Every stretch builds your confidence and knowledge that your positive character traits are getting stronger.
Step 7: Commit to self-improvement.
Realize that building your character is a life-long endeavor.
It is something that is practiced both in the minutiae and the defining moments of your life.
There will be times you step up to the character traits you embrace and other times you falter.
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How will you use this character traits list?
What do you consider to be the most important and valuable character traits?
How do you reflect these traits in your daily life both at work and in your personal life?
I hope you’ll use these traits to help you stay anchored to being your best self. You now have some tools to improve your own life and positively influence the lives of others.
- Pick one or two of these traits where you feel you have room for improvement.
- Write down some specific behaviors or choices that are negatively impacting your character in these areas.
- Then brainstorm action steps or changes you can make to grow in this area and improve the character qualities.
- Keep a journal or make notes about your efforts and how they are impacting your life and relationships.
As you work through this character traits list, and continue to prioritize sharpening your skills, you’ll find your confidence and self-esteem grows. And you’ll observe that others view you as a leader and source of motivation.
Character still counts, even in this modern era when it seems no longer relevant. It separates you as someone of substance and courage. And our world needs a lot more of that.